Wednesday, October 25, 2017
an attempt to please the owls
Someone last week mentioned "the abject" and I thought how well Gormenghast fitted that kind of state, with the position of disgusting subjection imposed on everyone by the castle's cultural structure -- not fleshy or fluidy or like the skin on milk, as in Kristeva, but an imposed closeness to insanity, and everyone passionately involved in coping with it. Alice Mills in Stuckness in the Fiction of Mervyn Peake, 2005, specifically names Swelter as an avatar of the abject (and no other character, I think?) because he is so bodily gross but if we're going to talk about Kristevan abjection then the whole form of the Law should be implicated. It shoves everyone up against a breakdown of sense and holds them there by forcing them to admire it as if it is its own opposite, complete meaning. This is not life but they have to live it. They are smelling this corpse of actual society. So. And you could push it a little bit; say that everyone's intense engagement with their own personalities is their state of joy or "vomit," that sort of ecstatic position of being in there with the abject thing, and gripping it. (Though isn't personality described as their way of distancing themselves from it and holding themselves constantly apart to create a tiny gap where they can live? But is it a gap?) And Titus is an escape from joy. "Madness has done little more for Sepulchrave than replace his servitude to ritual with an attempt to please the owls," says Mills seriously, which made me laugh.